Peeling Back the Layers: Prototyping Systemic Transformation through the Circular Food Innovation Lab


  • Lily Raphael
  • Marcia Higuchi
  • Laura Kozak
  • Erin Nichols



circular economy of food, systems change, transformative processes, social innovation


Wasted food — the result of a linear pattern of producing, under-consuming and disposing of food — is a pervasive issue globally and in Canada. Wasted food is a complex challenge, meaning it is characterized by unpredictability, ambiguity, and many actors. The current climate crisis, food insecurity, economic disparity and housing inequality all intersect with this challenge. If we are to tackle these increasingly complex issues in social and public sectors, we need to work together in new and emergent ways. The Circular Food Innovation Lab was a unique research initiative that drew together municipal government, interdisciplinary designers and regional food businesses – grocers, food producers, distributors, restaurants and vendors – to tackle these complex challenges through systemic and service design methodologies, asking “how might we work together to increase circularity in Vancouver’s food system so that food is not lost or wasted; access to food is nourishing, equitable, and culturally appropriate; and habitats are protected for current and future generations of humans and more-than-humans?”